Sinn Féin Leader Gerry Adams TD during Leaders Questions today asked the Taoiseach to apologise to Roma families who had children wrongly taken from them in October.
He also sought a commitment from the Taoiseach that the State would not seek to defend a case being taken against it by one of the families involved.
Mr Adams’ questions elicited an apology to the families from the Taoiseach but he was non-committal in terms of defending the forthcoming legal case.
He welcomed the findings of the Ombudsman’s Report into the incidents, which was published today, and called on the Government to implement its findings.
Speaking today Gerry Adams said:
“Two children were wrongly taken from their families in Tallaght and Athlone last October. The children – a girl aged seven and a two-year-old boy, were taken from their parents, members of the Roma community, after members of the public reported a concern that they might not be the families’ own children. These claims were completely unfounded.
“There appears to be no other reason for these children being taken away from their families, than that they were fair haired. DNA tests subsequently proved that the children were indeed members of their families.
“This was a deeply traumatic experience for the families involved. It was an abuse of process and a direct attack on the constitutional and human rights of the children and their families.
“Unfortunately this is the result of a racist and prejudiced opinion of the Roma community. As Irish society becomes more diverse, more needs to be done in terms of social integration. We need a detailed integration strategy for the Roma community in Ireland.
“The Athlone family still does not know where their child was taken that night. They are suing the State for breach of constitutional rights, false imprisonment, negligence and damages for mental distress and possibly defamation.
“The Government should make clear that it does not intend to waste taxpayers’ money by defending this case.”
Mr Adams pointed out that these incidents took place against a backdrop of scandalous tabloid newspaper coverage of the Roma community:
“The Dublin and Athlone cases represent clear examples of racial profiling by the Gardai and the State.
“Under the Childcare Act the Gardaí must have reasonable grounds for believing there is ‘an immediate and serious risk to the child’ before taking such action. No such risk existed in these cases. If it did, surely all the children would have been removed, not just those with blond hair and blue eyes?
“The speed of intervention in these cases stands in marked contrast to many others. Just a week before these incidents, the Children's Ombudsman revealed that the HSE failed to intervene over several years after a child made multiple allegations of rape.
“Another report revealed that 4,100 children assessed by the HSE as needing intervention had to wait more than three months for intervention.”